Oiktirmos: God’s Tender Side

Word of the Week

January 20, 2024

 Oiktirmos: God’s Tender Side


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3 NASB20


How do you think God feels about you

When you’ve screamed at the kids?

When you’ve launched into a panic attack?

When you’ve succumbed to that sinful urge again?

When you are drowning under the pressures you face?


Is He angry?  Disappointed?  Shaking His head and muttering, “Not again!”

We naturally assume that a thoroughly righteous God is not going to be happy to see us.  We know that Christ died for our sins, so we won’t face eternal hellfire, but we hesitate to approach a holy Lord.

Fortunately, there is another side to the Lord’s character – one that assures us of a warm welcome whenever we turn to Him.  Let’s look at the Greek word which describes this reassuring attribute of God.

Oiktirmos is usually translated “compassion” or “mercy.”   One lexicon describes it as “tender concern for one in trying conditions or distress.”

We often think of the Old Testament as the part of Scripture that highlights God’s holiness, His refusal to tolerate sin.  However, even the Old Testament clearly claims that the Lord is also a God of compassion.

God revealed Himself to Moses as “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate . . .” (Exodus 34:6)

David confessed his sin and asked God to blot out his iniquities “according to the greatness of Thy compassion” (Psalm 51:1).

Psalm 103 repeatedly celebrates the compassion of Jehovah, “who crowns you with lovingkindess and compassion” (verse 4), who “is compassionate and gracious” (verse 8), and “like a father . . . has compassion on those who fear him” (verse 13).

Each of these verses uses oiktirmos in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, nailing down this attribute of compassion as a basic part of God’s character.

The New Testament carries on the same theme.  2 Corinthians 1:3 calls him “the Father of mercies,” the source of unending, multiple varieties of compassion.  The word stands at the turning point of the book of Romans, where Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God” (Romans 12:1).  The apostle has spent 11 chapters explaining God’s marvelous plan of salvation, and now he sums it up all as the “mercies of God.”  In other words, God saw our miserable condition and cared about it!

Oiktirmos is more than just noticing that someone is in trouble.  It means that your heart goes out to that person, that you have an emotional response that makes you want to help them.

This kind of compassion goes far beyond what the law requires.  In fact, the book of Hebrews points out that there was no mercy in the legal system for anyone who flouted the Old Testament law (Hebrews 10:28).

However, we serve a God who cares about our burdens and feels our pain.  David pointed out that “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 130:14).  When Israel was in trouble, “In all their distress He was distressed” (Isaiah 63:9).  Jesus “was tempted in all things just as we are,” so he can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).  As a result, we can come boldly to Him.  When we ask for wisdom, He “gives to all generously and without reproach” (James 1:5).

In short, God is glad to see us, even when we are drenched with failure or discouragement.  No matter what, He wants us to come to Him, not run away.

By the way, He also wants His children to share His heart of compassion.  Jesus commanded, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).  Paul urged the Philippians, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, . . . have the same attitude” (Philippians 2:1-2).  And he repeated the same instruction in Colossians: “So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).

If the Lord can welcome me despite my flaws, perhaps I can respond to the next irritating person I encounter with compassion rather than irritation.


Study Hint:

When you study a Greek word, you should look first for places where it appears in the New Testament.  However, you can expand your search by considering the Greek Old Testament.  About two centuries before Christ, Jewish scholars in Egypt produced a translation of the Old Testament for the many Jews who no longer spoke Hebrew.  This Greek version is called the Septuagint, and you can learn more about Greek words by observing how they match up with the Hebrew words in the original text of the Old Testament.


Word Study Micro-Course

We have already learned that there are two foundational facts about words:

  1. Words have multiple meanings.
  2. A word has a single meaning in a particular context.

If those facts are true, then we should expect that there are two stages in every word study.

            Stage One – Discover all the possible meanings that a word might have.

Stage Two – Determine which meaning applies to the verse you are studying.

Those are the goals.  Next week we will start learning HOW to accomplish each goal.


Coming Up

It’s January and the gyms are full of people working on their New Year’s resolutions.  Next week we will start a short series of word studies linked to exercise – and not just the physical kind of workout.

©Ezra Project 2024


One Response

  1. I thank God for the word studies in your articles! Being half Greek, I speak some Greek and studied the language in my youth at Greek School at the Greek Orthodox church in Dallas, Tx. I am thankful for that teaching.
    At age 37, the Lord saved me by His grace! For over 50 years now I have attended only Bible churches, and been blessed with sound teaching, the last 30 years at Believers Chapel Dallas. Now at age 90, I am physically unable to attend but watch online. I am thankful for your website! I am a widow and now reside in an Assisted Living facility.

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